If you’re anything like me, you probably wondered what happened to superstar safety Eric Berry?
The former Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro completely fell off the map to the point where reporters didn’t even know what updates to provide on his sudden disappearance. Did he technically retire? Was he okay healthwise after beating Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015? Would he ever consider playing again?
So many questions met with total radio silence from Berry and those close to him. On December 2, 2021, the fan-favorite finally opened up on past, present and potential future during an interview with Sam Mellinger of The KC Star.
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Why Berry Left Football
Much of Berry’s adversity had become common knowledge to the public. His cancer diagnosis, his ruptured Achilles among other injuries, his vigorous rehabs and returns.
What we didn’t know was why Berry walked away abruptly in 2018. Mellinger was able to get to the root of that, as the football star explained a freak car accident away from the game that shook him to his core that year.
Mellinger wrote: “He was focused primarily on football until the moment during the Broncos home game when a security guard tapped his shoulder. ‘We need you to go in,’ Berry remembers hearing. ‘Your family has been in a bad wreck and what we hear is that one of them is hurt pretty bad.’ The next 20 minutes felt like the longest of Berry’s life. His dad, his brothers and his uncle were in that car. His eyes went blank. The stadium silent. He got to the hospital and heard a wild story.”
Berry went on to elaborate that his Uncle Bernard was badly injured when their Chevy Impala crashed into a concrete wall because of a “bypassed safety switch.” Thankfully, everyone survived, but the gravity of the situation caused the athlete to reevaluate his life.
“‘Just hearing that during the season… I got caught up thinking too much… Not to say it’s not important, football is important, but sometimes [you forget] your family and telling people you love that you love them and hug them and making sure they’re good. Because you just never know. It happens so fast. It happens so, so fast. That feeling of, oh, none of this stuff matters. What matters is how are my people doing?'” Berry told Mellinger.
The safety also talked about his bout with cancer and that he hadn’t truly come to grips with the feat until after he got away from the game and decompressed.
Mellinger put these thoughts into words: “At some point — and to hear Berry tell it, this part happened after football — he realized there was so much more to process. Too much, really. Nobody had ever done what he did, between the diagnosis and the chemo and the fear and the training and then back to football, all of it, non-stop, no breaks, and the time away has been full of reflecting.”
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Would Berry Ever Consider an NFL Return?
This entire interview is really fascinating from Mellinger and I recommend checking it out if you have a few minutes but for those that came for the “meat” of the article, Berry was asked if he’d ever considered playing again.
He told the journalist that he’s “where I need to be [physically]” approaching age 33 but that’s not the only concern.
Mellinger relayed a direct quote from Berry: “It’s about timing with me, it needs to have purpose. It needs to make sense to me on why I’m going somewhere or why I’m doing a certain thing. So once I feel that, then that’s when you’ll see me with a uniform on.”
After five years of very little football wear and tear, Berry could probably handle another comeback. I mean, he has returned from worse than this before.
The larger question is whether or not he actually wants to — or if he’s content enjoying a simpler life with more time for friends, family and reflection.